1 March 2002
Drivers now see beyond the headlight
DetroitTwo companies plan to develop affordable infrared (IR) devices for use in automobiles and other vehicles, extending a driver's night vision capability up to three times beyond conventional high beams.
IR camera and telecommunications device maker Indigo Systems Corp. inked a partnership pact with Autoliv, a company focused on automotive safety systems.
Researchers calibrate tiny cameras that can detect heat from objects to be sensitive to the wavelength of humans and animals. This enables a broader, longer view than conventional headlights, letting motorists see farther down the road and also see animals or pedestrians off to the side before they are visible in the lit area, company officials said.
This system will also permit a motorist to view the darkened area created when two cars approach at night. Objects will be visible much more quickly and accurately, giving the driver a safety advantage.
Because of the camera's miniature size, researchers can mount it close to a driver's head without obstructing normal vision. The display is on a transparent, televisionlike screen, which stows away in the instrument panel during the day. When the driver switches on the night vision system, the screen rises into position in front of him, and the IR view is on display.
General Motors has already partnered with Indigo in an effort to establish industry standards and solutions to night vision systems. Like the global positioning system (GPS) when it first came to market, the IR system's cost is prohibitive for most consumer use. But with the GPS's broad appeal, the subsequent cost per unit became quickly affordable at the mass-market level. The companies feel their system's affordability will follow the same lines.